This.

Eight more years.

This is a great signing for Minnesota, but a terribly risky signing for the Twins. It also makes me very happy. More on that later.

Now I’m going to call five Red Sox fans and five Yankees fans to tell them “HE’S MINE! YOU CAN’T HAVE HIM!”

Peace.

Review: Maple Street Press Twins Annual

Twins Annual

Image courtesy of my scanner.

I could waste a whole lot of words talking about the Maple Street Press Twins Annual 2010, because it is just. that. good. And, in fact, I think I will.

The bones (or central nervous system; I’m not sure of the anatomical analogy) of the Annual are brought to us by the Twinscentric writers: Nick Nelson, Seth Stohs, Parker Hagemon, and, of course, the Twins Media Mogul himself, John Bonnes. Their past offerings, including the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook and the TwinsCentric Trade Deadline Primer, have been excellent, high quality pieces of analysis and opinion, and the crew and the other authors that join them certainly do not disappoint in the first ever (at least to my knowledge) Twins Annual.

Where to begin. Well, one of my pet peeves is that many items like the Annual tend to be printed on low quality paper and or in a cheap magazine format, held together by staples and a prayer. To be honest, the first thing I noted about the Annual is that the book itself is of extremely high quality – just the thing to stand up to a year’s worth of reference and page-flipping. I know this seems like a minor point, but trust me – I wore out Seth’s 2009 Twins Prospect Handbook (Review for the 2010 Handbook forthcoming), so a high-quality publication is valuable in and of itself.

That aside, the real quality of the book is in the contents. Inside, you’ll find player cards (or profiles) of all the team members (including some amazing stats and diagrams I won’t spoil here), a look at the division, and many other examples of great analysis of the Twins season. As always, the Twinscentric Foursome (new superhero group?) have created a volume that is full of excellent content, more than anything I have ever seen. It is painfully clear how excellent the cream of the Twins blogosphere is, and it reinforces my belief that the Twins blogosphere is the best for a major league team – despite the higher traffic places like IAATMS get.

One of the greatest strengths of the Annual is that the whole issue reads like a “Who’s Who” of some of the best writers in the Twins blogosphere. It is here where the Annual shines, even outside the analysis of the Twinscentric Foursome. There are pieces from Howard Sinker, Josh Johnson, Dan Wade, and Phil Mackey – to name just a few. Seth brings his amazing knowledge of the Twins system to bear, and the whole crew brings a statistical eye to bear on the Twins in ways that you wouldn’t necessarily expect. Overall, an extremely good publication.

Probably the article that I needed to read the most was the Phil Miller effort coming to grips with the Santana trade. In hindsight, it was a terrible trade. But would it have been any better to keep him around? Who knows. But it was something that I needed to read, and something that few in the blogosphere have devoted a significant amount of time to writing. I really recommend that everyone read it. Closure and all that. :)

Here’s a list of some of the great articles:

  • Judd Spicer on the limestone being used in the Target Field facade.
  • Josh Johnson on the Twins’ new international focus
  • Jim Thielman looks at a division championship that only happened 50 years or so ago
  • Adam Peterson dissembles the value of “doing the small stuff.”
  • Darren Wolfson talks with the man himself: Ron Gardenhire.
  • … and many more!

In sum, the only (and best) way to describe the Maple Street Press 2010 Twins Annual is that it is a must-have for anyone who wants to know more about the Twins than you can get from the drive-by accounts in the Strib and PiPress (though I know at least the Strib tries very hard, but it is a dying media form). Go get it.

The Maple Street Press Twins Annual 2010 is brought to you by Twinscentric and Maple Street Press and can be purchased here for $12.99 plus S&H. 128 pages, full-color.

A quick update and preview of things to come

Hey all, I have been sick with a nasty cold and flooded with law school-related work (hint: I have to finish a note in the next day or I might get kicked off my journal; lovely stuff), so updates have been sparse this week. But I thought I’d pass along a quick note about my plans for going forward:

  • First I need to thank all the new viewers and subscribers that have joined me over the last week. Who would have known an idiotic post about the semi-non-existence of photos of Joe Mauer’s beard would drive more than 2000 unique hits over four days?
  • Also, thanks to Seth Stohs for linking to my list of baseball metaphors. I try to spread around the blog love where I can. It’s great to drive traffic for each other.
  • Alright, going forward: This weekend I plan to have a look at the Twins bullpen, which seems apt, given the title of this blog.
  • I will begin the countdown of the Twins’ 10 most Important Games either Monday or a week from Monday, depending on my workload this weekend.
  • Look for a review of the Maple Street Press Twins Annual in the next week as well. Spoiler: it’s good. Order it.

Tata for now, with plans to meet up again soon!

Baseball and Life

I thought I’d take a few minutes to draw a few parallels between baseball and life (and the outside world). As baseball is America’s pastime, there were surprisingly many. Here are some I came up with. Add yours in the comments, and, as always, follow me on Twitter at @calltothepen.

  1. In life, you generally lose more battles than you win. In baseball, a batter who gets a hit one of three at-bats is a superstar.
  2. In baseball, as in life, the season starts with training. Then, you finally get into the game. Unfortunately, most people are out of the game by the time the season is two-thirds over. Then they coast to the finish.
  3. That even the best strike out more often than they hit home runs.
  4. Every journey starts and ends at home.
  5. There are 365 days in a year and you probably encounter a million or more people a year, yet you see relatively few people with regularity. In this era of the unbalanced schedule, teams see all thirty teams, but really only spend a significant amount of time with the three to five other teams in their division.
  6. As George Will put it: “In life, as in baseball, we must leave the dugout of complacency, step up to the home plate of opportuniy, adjust the protective groin cup of caution and swing the bat of hope at the curve ball of fate, hoping that we can hit a line drive of success past the shortstop of misfortune, then sprint around the base path of chance, knowing that at any moment we may pull the hamstring muscle of inadequacy and fall face-first onto the field of failure, where the chinch bugs of broken dreams will crawl into our noses.” (actually, I doubt George Will ever said this)
  7. In life, there are work supervisors and the justice system to tell you when you’ve messed up. In baseball, there’re four guys wearing blue shirts.
  8. In life, the person who doesn’t drink is a designated driver. In baseball, the player who doesn’t field is the designated hitter.
  9. Focus on what you have control over. In life, you can’t control how other people will act. In baseball, pitchers can’t control what happens once the pitch leaves their hand.
  10. As Yogi Berra famously stated (or may not have stated, depending on who you believe), it’s not over til it’s over.
  11. In life, we use baseball terms to describe how our dates went (i.e. “I struck out”)
  12. In real life, oftentimes you just can’t communicate with other people, especially if you don’t know the jargon. In baseball, your fate is determined by a man who communicates only with ambiguous hand gestures and shouts of something that sounds like “HROOOT,” which he fails to explain. (H/T Dave Barry)
  13. In baseball, there is the infield fly rule, which states that when there are two or more baserunners with less than two outs, a fly ball determined to be catchable within the infield is immediately designated as an out, with the runners allowed to advance at their own discretion. In life, we have the United States tax code.

Pitchers and catchers have reported! Play Ball!

Top Prospects 10-1

Alright, I’ve been putting this off long enough. At the conclusion of the last blog, I had reduced the number of prospects in contention for the top 32 list from the original number of 73 down to 42. 42 is 10 more than I included in the top 32, obviously. I used approximately the same criteria I used to rank the top 32 in order to reduce the final 10 prospects: consensus among other respected bloggers, stats, ceiling, rankings, etc. Basically, a holistic, semi-arbitrary choice. You’ll have to forgive me for not being able to give much more information than that. A lot of other bloggers have created numerical algorithms to get past that, but I think for a lot of people it does honestly come down to an arbitrary summation of a lot of factors, including some of those intangibles most of us love to hate. So, yeah.

So, now that that’s all out there, why did I limit myself to 32 players? There are many more quality prospects that have a shot to make it to the majors in the Twins system (there are just a few more than 73 that have a legitimate chance, to my count). The first, and most basic reason, is that once it got down to ranking about 35 up until 50, I would have been making much more of a judgment call than I would normally like to in a space like this. The other reason is that, in a post I wrote in January, I limited myself to 32 basically on a whim. Who am I to make myself a liar?

Anyway, here’s the last 10 prospects on the list, below the fold. As always, follow me on twitter @calltothepen.

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Notes from All Over: Mets, Mauer, and Boras

I am hoping this will become a semi-regular feature. Time to look at some of the baseball news from the rest of MLB. Trust me, it’s worth the read.

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Intent on destroying any hope that Mets fans might have had coming into the season with the good news in past days about Johan Santana and Jose Reyes (both of whom appear to be healthy), Omar Minaya has declared that the starting first base job will be an “open competition” — between Daniel Murphy and Mike Jacobs. Both have some power, but have shown less of it recently. Both have been terrible liabilities on the field (though Jacobs posted a not-terrible UZR last year), and, the best thing, as Rob Neyer points out:

When you see the names “Daniel Murphy” and “Mike Jacobs,” you might say to yourself, “Self, neither of those guys are good enough to play every day, but what about a platoon? After all, the Mets are set with every-day players for every other position, so they should have the roster space to carry two first basemen.”

Ah, that’s what I thought, too. But then, a nagging little suspicion: Aren’t Murphy and Jacobs both left-handed hitters?

They are.

That’s right, friends. Even though he already had Murphy, Minaya chose — from among all the sluggardly sluggers looking for an invitation to spring training — another left-handed hitter to compete with Murphy.

[...]

[U]ntil something else happens, we’ll have to go with this as the No. 1 early contender for 2010′s Worst Plan of Spring Training Award.

Needless to say, both are terrible against left-handed pitching. Sort of makes our question about third base (PLEASE don’t hand the job to Punto without a fight) seem moot, eh?

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Jon Marthaler, over at TwinkieTown, thinks that Joe Mauer will sign this week, if only to eliminate the media swarms and drama that will result if he reports without his signature drying on a new contract. I tend to agree, but have to link for what may be my favorite Minnesota analogy of all time:

Have you ever tried to compliment a Minnesotan? It’s like trying to bathe a cat. “I liked your ravioli hotdish at the potluck,” you might say, to which the receiver of the compliment will say, “Oh, that? That’s not much, really, just some ground beef and noodles and tomato sauce, I guess. I’m just lucky anybody ate any of it, we’d have leftovers for a week.”

Do not make the mistake of arguing with this Minnesotan. You will enter into a vicious cycle of compliments and denials, one that will end with you offering to tattoo the recipe on your forearm, it was THAT GOOD, while the complimentee offers to cut out his or her tongue as a gesture of unworthiness.

Beautiful work.

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If there is one person in the baseball world that I hate, it is Manny Ramirez. If I had to pick a second, however, it would be Scott Boras. As an aspiring lawyer, I am constantly horrified by the constant conflicts of interest that Boras, a 1982 graduate of the McGeorge School of Law, manages to get himself into. Represent five players that play the same position in the same off-season? Sure, why not. Focus on the player that will receive the highest paycheck to the (seeming) exclusion of all others? The business of baseball. Boras has a near-sterling reputation for getting the most money possible for his clients, and with that in mind, it’s no surprise that few players fire him and even fewer complain. I would wager that Boras forces all his clients to sign waivers of ABA Model Rules of Professional Responsibility 1.7, 1.8, 1.9, and 1.10 (which govern conflicts of interest), though there is a hazy area where he could have problems under rule 1.3, which governs the diligence with which a lawyer must represent one’s client.

I dislike Boras so much that even though I loved Carlos Gomez (and trust me, I really loved me some Carlos Gomez), I fully expected him to be traded after last season, due to upcoming arbitration (which, by the way, he settled for 1.15 million) and free agency. And I can’t say that I am happy he’s gone, if only because it frees me from considering whether Minnesota would have even attempted to re-sign him after he hit free agency, due to Boras being his agent. However, it’s practically impossible for teams to avoid Boras, as he represents dozens of players.

Of course, this didn’t stop our favorite Bert Blyleven from writing a fawning piece about Boras last December. And most other agents defend him, since they do the same thing. Agents work on commission, like trial attorneys and furniture salesmen. When Boras convinces a team to sign one of his clients, he gets a certain percentage of the  agreed-upon amount, say 4%** . This has led to many, prominently Craig Calcaterra of HardBall Talk, to speculate that the reason Johnny Damon is out of a job is that Boras had a great financial interest in getting a job for Damon’s fellow client Matt Holliday first, as Holliday was almost guaranteed more money that Damon. This worked out to be true: I expect that Damon will sign a 1-year, $7 million deal with the Tigers sometime this week, while Holliday signed a 7-year, $120 million deal (with a ton of perks not included in the dollar amount, including guaranteed road suites, full no-trade, and incentives) with the Cardinals on January 5. Since then, the free agent market has cratered, leading to the one-year Damon deal. At our 4% rate, Boras stands to make $4.8 million off the Holliday deal and $280,000 off the Damon deal. Which one would you (or any self-aware lawyer) focus on first?

**Pardon the Posnanski italics here, but I wanted to stress that I have no idea what Boras actually earns. I have heard that MLB has a maximum of 4% of contracts (with no confirmation), but I know from law classes that sports agents typically make $15-25% of endorsement deals and 10% on any media. Either way, when you think about it, Boras stands to gain a ton more money than the 4% of the contract, as Holliday will likely be in a ton of commercials and do a ton of media around St. Louis, now that he’ll be there for the longer-than-near future.

Think about it this way: if you were a good player, not the best, but good, would you want your agent trying to arrange deals for the max amount of money possible for both you and the best player on the market at your position in the same off-season? I’m thinking not. Anyway, the reason I mention all this is that Felipe Lopez has fired Scott Boras as his agent.

Boras said: “We know how frustrating it is when a player can’t get a starting job from any one of the 30 teams,” Boras says. “We wish Felipe well. He’s a very talented player.”  He’s also had an agent that has represented other players that were far more lucrative all off-season. The quote has a repulsive “oh, no, it’s not my fault” quality that seems to quite aptly sum up the situation.

Lopez is now likely to get much less than the $5 million that the Twins signed Orlando Hudson for, despite better numbers last season. Lopez has scared off some teams with his .360 BABIP, which is overly high, and others are simply not interested or not in need of a second baseman. Joe Pawlikowski over at the indispensible FanGraphs thinks that some teams, including the Cubs or Cardinals (at third base), might still ahve some interest, though it seems unlikely. Lopez is looking at a 1-year deal worth a max of $2.5-3 million, if that. There’s a possibility

MLB needs to reform its rules regarding player representation. That, or the ABA (American Bar Association) needs to enforce its conflict-of-interest and diligence rules on sports agents, something it does not regularly do now.

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And, by the way, vomit.

Top Prospects 16-20 and How do you solve a problem like Shooter Hunt?

The countdown rolls along, as does my rationale for ranking the top prospects in the Twins system. Last time, I went from 61 almost-sort-of-kind-of-quarter-finalists to 48 slightly-more-sort-of-kind-of-quarter-finalists. This left me with the 48 prospects with the highest pre-draft ceilings and evaluations and that were not total outliers based on their performance in the Twins system. However, I ran into a problem:

Shooter Hunt.

Shooter Hunt was the Twins’ sandwich pick in the first supplemental round of the 2008 draft, which was compensation for losing Torii Hunter to free agency and the moneybags in California/Anaheim/Los Angeles/wherever the Angels say they are from now. He came into the Twins system in 2008 and pitched 4 games (19 IP), giving up 1 ER on 4 hits and 6 BB in the Appy League. Walks a little high, but who’s going to argue with a .47 ERA? Well, Hunt immediately showed why exactly we all should have been arguing. In Beloit, he appeared in 7 games, giving up 27 walks and 21 ERs, against 34 strikeouts and ONLY 2 HRs. Sad when you have to look to home runs allowed to find a bright spot, especially when that number is as not-so-good as 2 in 31.1 innings. Not terrible, but surely nothing to write home about. The 2009 season was an unmitigated disaster at both the GCL Rookie Twins team and back at Beloit (why in the world did they send him back there after he posted 25 walks in 15 innings?). Well, in Beloit, he gave up 33 walks in 17 innings, and his season was over; he was sent to extended spring training and then was shut down. I’m assuming this was due to ineffectiveness, not due to injury, as I couldn’t find any clippings about it.

Basically, he was really, really bad.

So how do you rank a player like Shooter Hunt? I chose to deliberately base my top 32 on concrete numbers, and I guess I am not alone, as Nick Nelson excluded him from his top 50, and Josh Johnson ranked him at number 48 (which, in fairness, is exactly where I would have put him, based on my own system). I had, at this point, 48 prospects left, and Shooter had unambiguously the worst season of the lot last year. To be fair, great Twins-oriented minds (Nick and Josh’s; I’m certainly not a great mind) can differ, as Aaron Gleeman ranked Hunt as the 26th best prospect in the Twins system (it appears largely based on potential, not on numbers), but noted that “right now his 2010 season should be considered a success if Hunt can simply show some semblance of command, regardless of whether he gets knocked around in the process.”True dat. If hitters knock Hunt around, it means that they were tempted by his offerings, which is much better than 2009.

At this point, it is important to note that I was still flying by the seat of my pants, not having made a top prospects list before. So, I decided to give some more weight to the numbers my prospects put up last year and the year before. This took me down to 42, after knocking out six prospects that simply did not perform very well during their time in the Twins system. It also cleared out Shooter Hunt, whose mental makeup/lack of control made him outside what I would consider the top 32 prospects in the Twins system.

Next time: I make the final cut to the 34 prospects in my top 32 plus 2 HMs.

Also, remember, you can follow my semi-baseball related tweets at @calltothepen.

Follow me past the fold to the Call to the ‘Pen 2010 Top Prospects 16-20…

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